Sea of Tranquility Staff writer Carl Sederholm recently spoke with Lord Mordiggian from Crafteon, a melodic black metal band with a deep interest in all things H. P. Lovecraft. The band's debut album, Cosmic Reawakening was released in August 2017.
SoT: Let's begin by introducing Crafteon to our readers. What are the main things you'd like us to know about you?
Lord Mordiggian: Crafteon is an unsigned black metal band out of Denver, Colorado based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Currently, we are promoting our debut album Cosmic Reawakening, which released in August 2017.
SoT: Crafteon plays melodic black metal. What bands are primary influences for you? What was the songwriting process for the band?
Lord Mordiggian: Although my influences have since expanded, before writing Cosmic Reawakening, I tended to primarily listen to Swedish acts such as Dissection, Bathory, and Dark Funeral. I think Cosmic Reawakening itself has succeeded as a bass guitar-driven album (which is rare in black metal), as during its conception bands like Nyktalgia and Shining had captivated me with bass lines that carried the melody while the tremolo-picked rhythm guitar chords were drawn back from the limelight—it assuredly builds an eerie sort of atmosphere that creates subterranean or suboceanic imagery, which I believe aligns with the ambience of the Cthulhu Mythos.
As for the songwriting process, creating a song that follows a written narrative and retells it through a different medium certainly has a lot to do with structure and mood in order to be effective. To begin with, as a refresher, I simply re-read the story I am interested in writing a song about and make various notes to myself. Next, I typically noodle around on my guitar until I develop the main theme that embodies the work as a whole. From there, I attempt to structure the actual plot of the story and the shifts in tone from beginning to end so that the song itself somewhat mirrors the emotional journey of the narrative. After solidifying the guitar work, I turn to writing an accompanying guitar that offers harmony and counterpoint, especially with chord shapes. Finally, I write the bass and drums together. As mentioned above, contrary to a lot of black metal, I at times prefer a prominent and audible bass guitar section, and in places on Cosmic Reawakening, the bass actually carries the melody while the rhythm guitars and vocals take a back seat, which I stole from German depressive black metal.
SoT: How did Lovecraft come to be significant for you personally? Was he primarily a literary influence or did you also come to him through films and popular culture?
Lord Mordiggian: Truly, I had no idea who Lovecraft was until I first picked up an anthology of his stories at a bookshop as a teenager. Even though Metallica's "Call of Ktulu" was among my favorite tracks to spin, I was oblivious to its meaning or connection to a literary work. At the time that I started reading that first book, I had always been fascinated with the occult, albeit through exposure to books of questionable authenticity from the school library or the increasingly-popular "New Age" section found in chain book stores, but I'd never encountered anything that induced that strange sensation of cosmic dread that was both invigorating and devastating at the same time. Reading Lovecraft before bed and "unnerving" myself to sleep quickly developed as a personal tradition and regular habit that still continues to this day. Currently, I am adventuring through the seven Del Rey books published under Lovecraft's name, although a couple of them are anthologies of fan fiction. Some stories are re-reads, but most are new to me, so I'm enjoying myself. I just have to live with the fact that most nights I can't fall asleep until I am "cosmically perplexed."
SoT: I noticed that you wanted the lyrics to be as close to Lovecraft's words as possible. Why is that? Some bands adapt the stories to their own ends, but you wanted to preserve a sense of the language. What was your reasoning behind that?
Lord Mordiggian: While I initially set out attempting to compose my own original lyrics, I soon discovered it too frivolous as retelling or interpreting my favorite stories in my own words would only result in lyrics that paled in comparison to H.P.'s particular style. Therefore, as my aim was to take the "bardic" approach in musically recreating these narratives, I resolved to use Lovecraft himself as the librettist (thanks to the public domain, too). Adhering the original lines of the story to the cadences of the songs proved difficult, and that issue forced me to make my own additions here and there, but of course while doing this I consulted my own familiarity with Lovecraft's style as well as a Lovecraftian lexicon of sorts to ensure the utmost accuracy. I hope that as an English teacher I can at least faithfully mimic another writer, thus my intention is that listeners cannot tell where Lovecraft ends and I begin, or vice-versa. On top of that, I think my lyrical approach is similar to an activity practiced in high school and college English classrooms called "found poetry," in which students take a text and cut out small, significant "chunks" of meaning and then construct those pieces together to form a poem that communicates a message regarding an emerging theme in the whole text itself (or perhaps something entirely new).
SoT: How does Crafteon's music reflect the interest in Lovecraft? Why do you think black metal relates to Lovecraft so well?
Lord Mordiggian: To me, black metal possesses three unique qualities that lend themselves to Lovecraftian horror and the weird tale. The first is atmosphere. Black metal soundcapes tend to bathe listeners in a wide, ambient void of cold space that is daunting and isolating, which I believe aligns with the sense of cosmic dread prevalent in Cthulhu Mythos stories and in other weird fiction. The second is aggression. Black metal's roaring guitars and thundering blast beats awaken a primal urge within listeners, beckoning them like the suboceanic cities that summon the citizens in Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" as they metamorphose into Deep Ones and dive into the cold abysses. Finally, the third element is despair. Black metal vocals distinguish themselves from other extreme genres through their demonic shrieks, croaks, growls, and gurgles, which are an expression of pain and torment but also an aspect of the inhuman and alien, which is abound in the weird tale. I think Dagon, frontman of the black metal band Inquisition, echoes this when he says in an interview, "[W]hen people say it sounds like a frog or anything else I feel I obtained what I wanted, I achieved that goal of keeping the human factor out of the vocal chants."
SoT: One of the things I liked the most about Cosmic Reawakening was the range of Lovecraft stories it included, including the lesser -known "What the Moon Brings." What was the reasoning behind the selections? I assume Crafteon isn't done with recording Lovecraft-inspired songs!
Lord Mordiggian: While these eight stories are among my all-time favorites from Lovecraft's catalogue, they were the stories that spoke to me musically—meaning I felt that I could competently interpret them into song. Of course, I have my eye on many other stories, even those written by Lovecraft's contemporaries, so who knows what the next album will bring. And speaking of future work, more than likely, Crafteon will always remain Lovecraftian. As you know, there are hundreds of original works by Lovecraft to grapple with, and if the well were ever to dry up, his contemporaries also wrote dozens of quality stories taking place in his universe, and of course there are countless stories written by modern writers as well, not to mention the engaging scenarios from the RPG tabletop game, Call of Cthulhu. My favorite modern Lovecraftian tale is Stephen King's "Jerusalem's Lot," in which I believe he nearly out-Lovecrafts Lovecraft. If Crafteon were to break away from retelling and recreating tales from the Cthulhu Mythos, it may only occur so that Crafteon can relate original tales. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea—at the moment, I just finished writing a Victorian horror short story, and then I am also working on a short story for a Lovecration Microfiction contest due in late 2018, so it could happen!
SoT: You played a series of shows in 2017. How did they go? Are fans getting better acquainted with Crafteon? I hoped to attend your Salt Lake City show but was unable to be there. How did it go?
Lord Mordiggian: So far the reception, both online and at shows, has exceeded my initial expectations. I love that we have both introduced some Lovecraft fans to black metal and introduced some black metal fans to Lovecraft. I'm hopeful that we gain further popularity, as I'd like for Crafteon to land a tour support gig with a popular North American black metal act such as UADA, WITTR, or Inquisition.
The Salt Lake City show was as successful as I could have hoped, especially considering that our drummer showed up late that morning and that the RV leaked fuel along the way! We arrived at the venue only 45 minutes before we went on. Although I know the metal scene out there is much smaller than in Denver, we still had a decent crowd show up at Club-X. I feel that nearly every person in attendance purchased some kind of merch from our booth, whether a patch or CD or shirt, so I am entirely grateful. I can attribute much of that success to my close friend John Yelland of the bands Principium, Judicator, and Disforia, as he helped to promote the show and hype up SLC metalheads for Crafteon.
SoT: Tell us a little about the band's overall look and feel. What do your costumes represent, for example?
Lord Mordiggian: Our image is something I am hoping to develop and improve as we move forward. At the moment, we have certainly stuck with the traditional black metal style through black clothing and corpse paint, but we also wear custom-made hooded robes that are meant to portray a Lovecraftian "cultist" vibe as we burn a particular blend of incense on stage to communicate an other-worldliness. Fans may also notice the antique lanterns that hang from our drum hardware. Still, I admit that our current image is a tad too generic for my intentions, but until we become more financially-capable of making improvements, the current image will have to do.
SoT: Any particular significance to the idea of a "Cosmic Reawakening?" Why a "Reawakening" as opposed to an "awakening?"
Lord Mordiggian: The title Cosmic Reawakening works as a three-in-one: 1) thematically, a reawakening of the Great Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos (who have been awoken before by other bands—sort of a tongue-in-cheek response to the customary complaint that "other metal bands already did Lovecraft"), 2) commercially, a sonic alarum for the metal fans of the world via our global debut, and 3) personally, a nod to my favorite debut album of all-time, Lost Horizon's Awakening the World.
SoT: What else would you like our readers to know about Crafteon?
Lord Mordiggian: As we continue writing the next album, readers can find our music and merchandise at https://crafteon.bandcamp.com, and for those who prefer to own a digital copy, it can be downloaded for free. Also, they should be sure to follow our official Facebook page
Lastly, we'd like to thank Sea of Tranquility for the honor of interviewing with them and express our gratitude for their help in promoting our music.